Guide to genealogical and historical sources for the Bready area
The following guide provides information on the sources available to study the history of Bready and the families who have lived there. Note: PRONI stands for Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
Registers of births, marriages and deaths provide basic family history information. Civil or state registration of all births, deaths and marriages began in Ireland on 1 January 1864. Non-Catholic marriages, including those conducted in a government registry office, were required in law to be registered from 1 April 1845. The Bready area fell within the registrar’s district of Dunnamanagh, which in turn formed part of the superintendent registrar’s district of Strabane. Indexes to civil marriages 1845–63 are hand-written, but thereafter all indexes are printed. The General Register Office (GRO) in Belfast holds the original birth and death registers recorded by the local district registrars for Northern Ireland from 1864. Marriage registers for Northern Ireland are available at the GRO from 1922. Before this marriage registers are located at the District Registrars’ offices of local councils. For the Bready area these will be found at the offices of Strabane District Council.
Prior to the commencement of civil registration the main sources of family history information are church registers. The following church records for the Bready area are available in PRONI.
Donagheady Church of Ireland
Baptisms, 1697-1723, 1753-65, 1818-9, 1826- 74;
marriages, 1697-1726, 1754-64, 1826-44; marriage
licences, 1817, 1829-53; burials, 1698-1726, 1754-7,
1826-89; vestry minutes, 1697-1723, 1754-1919;
accounts, 1829-1922, confirmation lists, 1872-98 MIC/1/35, CR/1/26
1st Donagheady Presbyterian Church
Baptisms, 1875-1932; stipend books 1804-1860,
2nd Donagheady Presbyterian Church
Baptisms, 1838-1976; marriages 1838-1926;
communicants’ roll book, 1865-1937 MIC.1P/459
Magheramason Presbyterian Church
Baptisms, 1878-1939; marriages, 1881-1927 MIC/1P/369
Bready Reformed Presbyterian Church
Baptisms, 1866-1984; marriages, 1864-1936;
session minutes, 1872-1932 MIC/1C/11
The discovery of a single gravestone may provide more information on the history of a family than could otherwise be gleaned from hours of searching through documentary sources. The information recorded on a gravestone varies considerably. Some gravestones will record the dates of death of several generations of one family. Others may simply record the family surname. In the Bready area there are graveyards in Grange Foyle and around Dunnalong Church of Ireland church. The former graveyard, known as Grange, stands on the site of a medieval monastery. The earliest gravestone bears the date 1630. The graveyard was closed in 1938 because of overcrowding. The inscriptions from Grange were published in book form as Register of Gravestone Inscriptions in Grange Burial Ground, Strabane by Sheelagh and David Todd in 1993. The burial ground attached to Dunnalong Church of Ireland dates only from the late nineteenth century. It is a fairly small graveyard and is almost full. Since the end of the Second World War most people dying in the area were buried in Mountcastle Cemetery, a burial ground owned by Strabane District Council.
The 1901 census is the earliest census of Ireland that survives in its entirety. The original returns are deposited at the National Archives in Dublin; microfilm copies of the returns for Northern Ireland are available at PRONI under reference MIC/354. The information in the census is listed under the following headings: name; relationship to the head of the household; religion; literacy; occupation; age; marital status; county of birth (or country if born outside Ireland); and ability to speak English or Irish. Every town, village and townland is represented and those inhabitants who were at home on 31 March 1901 are listed. The townlands in the Bready area were all within the electoral division of Dunnalong.
Old age pension claims
The old age pension was introduced on 1 January 1909 for those over seventy years of age. For many born before 1864, when the state registration of births began in Ireland, it was necessary to pay for a search to be made of the 1841 and 1851 censuses in order to prove their entitlement to the pension. The forms submitted by the claimants include such information as the names of parents, location at the time of the 1841 or 1851 census, and age at the time of the claim and during the relevant census year. Individual application forms completed by or on behalf of the applicant are known as ‘green forms’. The green forms are held at the National Archives, Dublin, under reference CEN/S/8. Another form of evidence related to the old age pension returns are ‘form 37s’, which were submitted by local pensions offices. These include the applicant’s name, stated age, parents’ names and address at the time of the census. Details of the search were added to the form, and each claim was bound according to barony in a series of volumes that are now deposited in PRONI under reference T/550. A volume based mainly on surviving old age pension claims was compiled by Josephine Masterson and is entitled Ireland: 1841/1851 Census Abstracts (Northern Ireland).
The Ulster Covenant, 1912
Prime Minister H.H. Asquith introduced the Third Home Rule Bill to the House of Commons on 11 April 1912. It provided for a parliament in Dublin with limited powers, and it met with strong oppositions from Ulster Unionists who saw it as the first step to Irish independence. On ‘Ulster Day’, 28 September 1912, the Ulster Covenant was signed by 237,368 men and 234,046 women who pledged themselves to use ‘all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland’. The Ulster Covenant Signatories of 1912 are an invaluable, if underused, genealogical resource. This source is more than simply a list of names and includes street addresses, townlands, etc. The signatures have been indexed by PRONI and a searchable database is available on its website (www.proni.gov.uk).
Tithe applotment books, 1823–38
Tithes were paid to the clergy of the Church of Ireland. They were paid regardless of the religious affiliation of the tithe-payer. In 1823 the Tithe Applotment Act was passed, which stipulated that henceforth all tithes due to the Established Church were to be paid in money rather than in kind. This necessitated a complete valuation of all tithable land in Ireland, the results of which are contained in the manuscript tithe applotment books for each civil parish. Donagheady is one of the small number of parishes for which there is no tithe applotment book.
The First or Townland Valuation of the 1830s
The Townland Valuation was primarily concerned with the agricultural value of land, but it also included details on houses valued at £3 or over (in 1838 this was raised to £5 or over). The manuscript field-books for Northern Ireland are available at PRONI under VAL/1B. Accompanying the field-books are annotated Ordnance Survey maps on the scale of 6 inches to the mile. These show the different areas of land use within a townland. They also indicate by a numbering system the houses recorded in the field-books. The maps are listed under VAL/1A. In addition there are larger scale maps for towns under VAL/1D.
The Primary or Griffith’s Valuation, 1848–64
In contrast to the First Valuation, the 1848–64 valuation gives a complete list of occupiers of land, tenements and houses. This Primary Valuation of Ireland, better known as Griffith’s Valuation after the Commissioner of Valuation, Sir Richard Griffith, is arranged by county, within counties by Poor Law Union division, and within Unions by parish. It includes the following information: the name of the townland; the name of the householder or leaseholder; the name of the person from whom the property was leased; a description of the property; its acreage; and finally the valuation of the land and buildings. It is available in manuscript form at PRONI (VAL/2B). A bound and printed summary version is available on the shelves of the Public Search Room, PRONI, and at major libraries. These volumes are arranged by Poor Law Union within counties, and then into parishes and townlands. The valuer’s annotated set of Ordnance Survey maps showing the location of every property is available at PRONI (VAL/2A). These enable a researcher to identify the exact location of the house in which an ancestor may have lived.
Valuation revision books, from c.1864
The manuscript valuation books were updated on a regular basis and these books up to c.1930 are available under PRONI reference VAL/12B. When a change of occupancy occurred, the name of the lessee or householder was crossed off and the new owner’s name written above it, while the year was noted on the right-hand side of the page. Different-coloured ink was often used to differentiate between years with a key at the start of each book to indicate which colour went with each year. The corresponding maps are also available under reference VAL/12D. Later valuation revision books are now available in PRONI up to the 1990s.
Poll tax returns
Poll tax returns survive for a handful of parishes in Ulster. These date from the early 1660s and record the names of every person liable to pay poll tax by townland. This was paid as follows: a gentleman 4 shillings; yeoman 2 shillings, servant 1 shilling, with the sum doubled if the individual was married. The poll book for the parish of Donagheady was published in J. Rutherford, Donagheady Presbyterian Churches and Parish (Belfast, 1953).
Hearth money rolls
In the 1660s the government introduced a tax on hearths as a means of raising revenue. The returns, arranged by parish and usually with townland locations, list the names of all householders paying this tax. Hearth money rolls for County Tyrone are available in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland under reference T/307A.
The Flaxgrowers’ List, 1796
In 1796 as part of a government initiative to encourage the linen industry in Ireland, free spinning wheels or looms were granted to farmers who planted a certain acreage of their holdings with flax. The names of over 56,000 recipients of these awards have survived in printed form arranged by county and parish. A typescript copy is available on the shelves of the Public Search Room at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (reference T/3419), and a microfiche index is available (reference MF/7/1).
Landed estate records
Until the late nineteenth century, the townlands in the Bready area, with the exception of Grange Foyle, formed part of the Abercorn estate. A vast collection of records relating to the management of this estate is available in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland under reference D/623. These records include maps naming tenants from 1777, detailed rentals from 1794, an extensive run of leases from 1835, and an incredible collection of letters between the 8th earl of Abercorn and his agents from the eighteenth century.
Wills and testamentary papers
Prior to 1858 the Church of Ireland was responsible for administering all testamentary affairs. However, indexes to these destroyed wills do exist and are available in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Wills for the Bready area are indexed in the volume covering the diocese of Derry. Despite the loss of virtually all pre-1858 wills, in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland there are over 13,000 abstracts, extracts and duplicate copies of the originals. An index of these wills has been prepared. From 1858 the government assumed responsibility for administering wills. Original wills up to 1900 were destroyed in Dublin in 1922 but the transcript copies in will books survived. Those for Northern Ireland are available on microfilm at PRONI for the period 1858–1900 (MIC/15C). From 1900 original wills for Northern Ireland are available at PRONI.
Registers of attendance provide useful information on children who attended a particular school. These record the full name of the pupil, date of birth (or age of entry), religion, father’s address and occupation (but unfortunately not his name), details of attendance and academic progress and the name of the school previously attended. Registers of attendance survive for Bready school from the late 1860s.